Caleigh Bachop is the captain, a leader and, one of the reasons the Mount Douglas Rams track and field team has blown up to 85 members this year.
The team isn’t just big, it also stars a large number of contenders in many of the events, including the throwing events, which the Rams’ have struggled with in years past.
The Rams are chipping away at Oak Bay High’s monopoly of the Lower Island and Island track and field championships. But Bachop just wants to see her team do its best and draw another 85 athletes out next year, when the Grade 12 student will be in her first year the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the leadership-based Morehead-Cain Scholarship program.
“(Mount Doug’s) goal for track is just maximum participation,” Bachop said. “If everyone comes out and runs their horses off, I’ll be so proud. The momentum is building, if we aim for that title the program will keep going.”
Bachop’s specialty is the 800-metre though she’s also an accomplished cross-country and 1,500m runner too. The 800m is in her blood, so to speak.
Her dad, Steve, ran the 1,500m and 800m for the UVic Vikings. Her mom, Cindy, ran the 1,500m and 800m at the University of Alberta.
“Getting Mount Doug’s team this big has been a group effort between coach Al Niezen and sponsor teachers,” Bachop said. “We have 12 coaches, a lot of them alumni who’ve come back, and for a team of 85 athletes that’s awesome. Students are coming in who haven’t done any events and there’s a coach for each. Bachop believes the variety of options boosts the numbers.”
“About 70 of the track and field athletes show up regularly for training,” Niezen said.
“Bachop has been really trying to inspire the team to new heights. She’s talked to the team and is trying to install a positive work ethic, and to try new events.”
The Rams are trying to gain points for the Island championship but Niezen is unsure if the team is ready to dethrone Oak Bay.
“It kind of depends on how many athletes show up and how they do. If we get the big turnout, we can get those points.”
Helping the case are top-ranked elites such as Bachop, who is gunning for a podium finish in two events.
Another star in the making is Grade 10 Sam Willett, who is having success throwing the javelin, discus and particularly the hammer.
“Willet is already up there with senior boys this year in the hammer, first so far in the standings, and is first in the javelin junior standings,” Niezen said.
Grade 12 Thomas Getty recently broke the boys high school league time for the 1,500m with a new time of 4:03.04. He’s also chasing the 800m record, just three seconds back of Brendan Restall’s (Oak Bay High) 1:55.94.
More than anything, Bachop wants to see the team stay as big as it is after she’s gone, and so is working to develop social side of it with a focus on team building.
“We’ve had a bowling night and took a team road trip to a meet in Vancouver with some decent numbers, but we’ve still never had all 85 athletes out. That is the goal,” she said.
The Lower Island track and field championships are at UVic on Wednesday. The Island championships are May 15 and 16.